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Establish European Institute of Technology (EIT)

in Evoluon Brainport Eindhoven

d.d. 14 maart 2006

Commission reveals plans for European Institute of Technology

In Short:

The Commission has presented its plans for the establishment of a European Institute of Technology (EIT) by 2009. Universities and the Commission's own research advisory group have strongly criticised the project.


The idea of a European Institute of Technology (EIT) was originally proposed by Commission President Barroso as part of the relaunched Lisbon agenda and the ambitious growth and jobs strategy. The aim of such an institute would be to strengthen Europe’s knowledge-triangle of research, education and technology transfer by providing critical mass and a world-class model for teaching and research and through partnerships between the academia and businesses.

A stakeholder consultation on the EIT’s key missions, objectives, added value and possible structure took place in autumn 2005. The purpose was to inform the Commission on whether to take the idea further.


The Commission revealed its plans for a European Institute of Technology on 22 February 2006. The plans describe the overall framework for the establishment of such an institute but do not include any reference to its geographical location. A 1-2 billion euro budget, coming from the EU, member states and industry, is proposed for 2009-2013.

The EIT would be a two-level organisation consisting of a central governing body, a system of knowledge communities and other partnering organisations. The government board, composed of 'top personalities' from the science and business sectors, would decide on the strategy and the budget of the EIT and select and evaluate the knowledge communities.

The knowledge communities would bring together departments of universities, companies and research institutes to perform research, education and innovation activities in inter-disciplinary strategic areas. These departments and their personnel would be seconded to the EIT and thus cease to be part of their home organisations for a certain period. The EIT would have its own legal personality and be independent of national regulation. Strategic research areas would include at least nanotechnology and information and communication technologies.

Compared to the European Research Council (ERC), which funds research projects on basic research, the EIT would be 'a knowledge operator', not a funding agency, seeking to educate, conduct research and apply the outcomes of research to commercial ends.


"Excellence needs flagships: that’s why Europe must have a strong European Institute of Technology, bringing together the best brains and companies and disseminating the results throughout Europe," said the Commission President José Manuel Barroso. He also referred to the establishment of an EIT as a "soft revolution for universities".

"If Europe is to remain competitive, then we must ensure that we improve the relationship between education, research and innovation," said Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism, Ján Figel.

MEPs Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Parliament's rapporteur on CIP, and Jerzy Buzek, Parliament's rapporteur on FP7 welcomed the Commission's proposal but asked for clarification on a number of issues. The MEPs questioned, for example, the time-frame of 10 to 15 years set for the knowledge communities to deliver results as they think think that longer-term research should be left to the ERC and that the EIT should concentrate on applied research delivering short-term results.

Chairman of the Parliament's committee for industry, research and energy, the MEP Giles Chichester said, "The Wim Kok review of the Lisbon agenda pointed to the fundamental weakness of proliferating priorities and too many objectives. This EIT proposal, coming on the heels of the ERC concept within the FP7 and alongside Mr Verheugen's multi-faceted industrial initiatives and high level groups suggests to me that the Commission is in danger of doing the same thing over again. However, he continued, "one mitigating factor would be if the suggestion to locate this proposed Technology Institute in the European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg were to be adopted. Then we MEPs could stop meeting there and the money saved could help pay for the Institute!"

The European University Association (EUA) supported the establishment of an EIT on two conditions: the establishment of a European Research Council (ERC) "must be the first priority" and an EIT must be built with "fresh money" that does not deprive the ERC.

According to the League of European Research Universities (Leru), the models proposed for the EIT "militate against competition, will be unable to deliver the short and medium term benefits sought, are narrow and unimaginative in scope and are of doubtful sustainability."

The Coimbra Group universities stated that "it is doubtful that the creation of an EIT, be it in a virtual or a physical form, will be directly beneficial to the creation of a European knowledge-based economy and the Lisbon strategy." These universities think that "the purpose assigned to a potential EIT can be better achieved through the ERC."

Eurochambres is not "convinced of the need for an EIT in the conventional sense. The only added value would be in the integration of knowledge, commitment and power of world class researchers AND enterprises. In addition, "should there be an EIT, the European Chambers are of the opinion that its primary focus must be on improving the commercial exploitation of research within an integrated approach of teaching, research and technology transfer."

The Commission's own advisory group on research policy, the European research advisory board (EURAB), said that plans to create a US-style high-tech institute are too ambitious. The group has warned the Commission that a "world-class research institute cannot be created top down" and that "a successful EIT can only grow out of existing research communities, supported by incentives for research and innovation."

Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has said he supports the idea of building a network of existing universities rather than creating a new institution.

The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, supports the creation of an EIT.

The French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, wants the EIT to be based near Paris in France. France might go ahead with building its own EIT irrespective of any EU decision.

Some MEPs see the establishment of the EIT in the European Parliament premises in Strasbourg as a solution to end the parliament's 'travelling circus" between Brussels and Strasbourg.

Latest & next steps:

The next European Council will discuss the Commission communication on EIT on 23-24 March 2006.
The Commission will present a formal proposal before the end of 2006.
If the legal instrument establishing the EIT can be adopted in 2008, the governing board could be appointed in early 2009, along with the first staff.
The identification of the knowledge communities should start in 2009.


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